Analysts could see a gas station, and then a bright glow, and then the drone crashed.
Last week, on the outskirts of Donbas, a Ukrainian non governmental organization flew a drone near the front lines, and encountered what appears to be a new counter-drone system.
The report comes to us from the Minsk Monitor, which writes:
Last month, the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard released a comprehensive survey of counter-drone systems. That survey, which looked at 235 different counter-drone products, found everything from birds to machine guns sold as ways to knock a drone out of the sky.
Again, from the Minsk Monitor:
It doesn’t appear that the drone was hit by a projectile or laser in its descent (though evidence of such would certainly change this analysis). Barring a physical projectile, the known non-kinetic methods for stopping a drone are threefold: radio frequency (RF) jamming, global navigation satellite system (GNSS) jamming, and spoofing. With RF jamming, the link between the drone and its operator is severed, usually causing the drone to descend or return to home. With GNSS, the drone’s link to satellite navigation is lost, and the drone then usually hovers in place, lands, or returns home. With spoofing, the attacker feeds the drone new information to take control of its flight.
None of these methods require any bright flashing lights, which could easily be a cosmetic feature of the counter-drone system. Given the drone’s sudden spiraling descent in the released video, it’s likeliest that the system featured is a radio-frequency jammer. It is also likely, given the system’s employment on the side of the Russian-backed separatists, that the system is another Russian-made electronic warfare weapon, fielded on the front lines of a proxy war as much for battlefield impact as it is for research and test purposes.
Kelsey Atherton blogs about military technology for C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain, Defense News, and Military Times. He previously wrote for Popular Science, and also created, solicited, and edited content for a group blog on political science fiction and international security.